After several doses of antibiotics and handfuls of OTC painkillers, I am feeling a bit better. The pain isn’t as intense as it was on Sunday and Monday, and that helps a lot. This isn’t my first experience in dealing with pain- bringing two children into the world certainly goes hand-in-hand with pain, and I’ve had a pinched nerve in my neck, which was pure agony. The good thing about childbirth-associated pain is that you know that it won’t last forever. During those intense contractions, you may think to yourself that this pain will never end, but it does. In that sense, I found my pain during labour with Penelope easier to deal with than the pinched nerve (while both Charlotte and Penelope were born via C-section, I only laboured with Penelope).
Physical pain can have a serious impact on one’s mental health- I was reminded of this once again this week. The first time I experienced the pinched nerve in my neck, the pain lasted for four months. And it happened at a very emotionally trying time of my life- I was entering my last semester of nursing school, Mark was on parental leave with Charlotte, and my mom was dying. There was no opportunity for me to take time off and heal. I had keep moving forward, despite the pain, and it was really hard. It was probably no coincidence that the pain finally eased up as the semester ended. And then when I had a recurrence of this pinched nerve two years ago, I struggled with the fear that I would face another four months of debilitating pain. Fortunately, it “only” lasted four weeks, but that is still a long time to be in constant pain. Four weeks of doctor’s visits, trying to describe the pain, worried that you may be labelled a drug seeker; four weeks of chiropractic treatments and acupuncture and X-rays and pain medications that didn’t do anything to relieve my distress. After three weeks of that, I was worn down and finally my doctor was convinced that I needed stronger pain medication- and that was what finally worked to put an end to the torture once and for all.
Pain messes with your head. You can’t sleep properly. You have trouble concentrating. You start to doubt yourself (“Is the pain really that bad? Maybe I’m overreacting.”). Is it any wonder that people who have chronic pain issues may also suffer from depression? Dealing with this sinus pain this week almost resulted in a derailment of my healthier lifestyle initiative. I’m tired and unhappy and have access to a shitload of Halloween candy and, as I’ve said before, I’m an emotional eater. This is a prime opportunity for a backslide into gluttony. On the way home from one of Penelope’s appointments this week, we drove past a shopping centre with a Bulk Barn and a grocery store and a couple fast food places. I desperately wanted to pull in there and get something- candy, cake, french fries, ice cream- I wanted it all. I wanted that temporary euphoria that comes with eating something deliciously bad for you because I felt like crap. But I stopped myself. I remembered all the other things I want, too- a long, healthy life, without developing diabetes or high blood pressure or high cholesterol or joint and back pain or asthma. I want to go shopping for cute clothes without being too ashamed to look in the mirror. I want to put away my maternity clothes. And so I steered clear of those empty calories that I longed for. I went home, and, believe it or not, I went to the gym. My sinuses were throbbing but I went anyway. It may not have been the best workout I’ve ever had, but it was enough to keep me focused.
This isn’t to say that I can’t ever indulge in some unhealthy treats- I can and I do. But I knew on this particular day, that if I gave in to that temptation, it wouldn’t be a mere indulgence. It would be the catalyst to me abandoning my healthy eating and fitness regimen. I have been down this road many times, and I’m grateful that this time, I was able to recognize the potential for a backslide and do something to avoid it.
Now if only this sinus pain would ease up some more, I would be all set.